Have you ever felt like you could not relate to those around you? This less about being introverted or shy, but the mere occurrence of being surrounded by individuals who look different from you, talk different from you, and sometimes may even think differently from you. Some may have first experienced this the time they moved out of their parents’ homes and immersed themselves in the real world. Others, such as myself, have felt the adverse effects of being different for as long as they can remember.
As a Black woman, raised in a predominantly white community, I was always relatively aware of my apparent variations compared to my counterparts. Regularly, these differences made it difficult to make friends and become accepted with the in-crowd. As a result, I attributed my differences as negative traits. Identity crisis arose time after time as I tried to conform to spaces that I did not have the tools to navigate. I like to think of this as someone trying to assemble a bookshelf with kitchen utensils. Portraying this idea of self-awareness fraudulently built with the foundations of others instead of the tools supplied to you; it merely doesn’t work. And sooner rather than later, that bookshelf falls apart, and you are back at your starting point. As discussed in my post on your innate superpower, lack of self-awareness can quickly cripple your mindset and lead you down a path of self-sabotage.
Over time, through self-reflection and a little soul searching, I was able to figure out who exactly I was and truly understand the value I possess. Often I find that this is a battle for many women, especially women of color. Although we have made great strides in diversifying our workplaces there are industries still heavily dominated by men. When women are working towards progressing in their careers, it can feel a little debilitating entering a space that looks drastically different from you. You wonder whether you’ll be accepted or taken seriously. Most women think they have to work twice as hard to prove their worth to someone equally qualified, and in some places of employment, this is proven true. Furthermore, women have a more difficult time finding mentors and sponsors in their field of interest due to the lack of representation already present there. Networking is vital, but the benefits can only go so far when you are only able to network in a small, marginalized pool.
So how do we start moving past this? How do we as women get a seat at the table? First, I believe there is a fine line between assimilating and playing the part. Women, just like men, have to be professional at work, dress the part, do their research, etc. This switch is unavoidable and a part of playing the role. But we must keep in mind that fully assimilating and stripping ourselves of our uniqueness does not benefit us in the professional world. Being different leads to innovativeness, which is valuable for a companies success. This innovativeness is rooted in being a woman with different perspectives and opinions than males, which add value to discussions and decision making. We have to acknowledge our importance first; otherwise, nobody else will.
When we enter new spaces, I believe its best we address our uniqueness instead of shy away or assimilate. Taking control of the conversation allows us to leverage our difference in a positive light. Additionally, If your intimidated or nervous, be confident in your vulnerability and understand that growth never happens in a place of comfort.
A lack of confidence can be spotted from a mile away. And let me be clear, being confident does not equate to perfection; instead, it’s when you affirm yourself content and aware of both your strengths and flaws.
When we stop trying to mold ourselves into spaces that aren’t for us, we open ourselves up to new opportunities and have the ability to influence others around us.
This is not an end-all-be-all, but a crucial starting point to change.
Check out my post on habits of women who set healthy boundaries to learn how to apply these practices in your everyday life. And as always share this message and continue to encourage those around you this week!